Prior to the opening of The Southern Co-operative’s new crematorium, The Oaks in Havant (12 December), over 150 funeral directors, clergy and celebrants were given an insight into the state-of-the-art building to familiarise themselves with the new facility.
Previously, the nearest crematorium for residents of south east Hampshire has been at either Porchester or Chichester. The Oaks can accommodate up to 200 people for a funeral, with seating for 86 in the service hall, which has views through 6 metre high windows, from floor to ceiling, over a private planted courtyard and onto the ancient woodland beyond. Built to the highest environmental standards, the facility employs the latest techniques in cremation and clean technology to prevent pollution to the air and surrounding environment. Low level energy efficient lighting also minimises light pollution from the site.
From its conception, The Southern Co-operative has been working with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to protect and enhance the environment and wildlife in the grounds. Roddy McGinley, The Southern Co-operative’s Crematorium and Cemeteries Manager, explained: “The Oaks has been designed sensitively to complement the surrounding wildflower meadow and ancient woodland in which it sits, which in turn creates a tranquil environment for the bereaved who are visiting.”
Roddy added: “We accommodate traditional religious or secular funeral services here for any culture and ethnicity as well as any other alternative forms of farewell, making it a celebration of a life well lived, rather than the death that has just occurred.” Funeral services are planned to last up to 45 minutes, which is 15 minutes longer than the local area has been used to. Service times are available Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings, and include Bank Holidays except for Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Bereaved families can choose music from an almost infinite music library via the Wesley media service or a digital organ or piano for more traditional services. Visual life tributes of video, photos and music can also be played on multimedia screens. Family and friends in the UK or anywhere abroad who can’t make the funeral can still view the service via a securely transmitted web cast. All of these audio visual services can also be recorded.
Celebrant Malcolm Chewter said: “My first impressions are that it is an absolutely lovely venue for a funeral; it feels welcoming and warm. The space is welcome for all cultures, the symbolism here is the oak tree and I like that idea.”
Reverend Nigel Bennett from St Judes Church in Southsea added: “The Oaks has been very well thought out, it is a lovely environment. Once it becomes better known, people might prefer to come here as it is so pleasant. The oversize cremator will, I’m sure, be useful.” The Oaks can accommodate cremations of much larger people, which is increasingly required, and up until now have had to be held out of the area.
Petersfield Funeral Director, Michael Miller, said: “The chapel was very well presented and I’m impressed that so many mourners can be accommodated. The photo screen is a good idea and I like the way the organ and staff area is open and not hidden from mourners. The flower area is a good size for mourners to view floral tributes. The staff were very helpful and friendly. In general I thought the crematorium is very well laid out.”
Bill Stillwell, Methodist minister for Copnor, Havant and Bedhampton, who attended The Oaks open evening with Pam Stone, a pastoral worker for the Methodist Church, said: “We like the fact that the service hall is light and airy, and that visitors can look out and see Mother Nature, also that they can walk through the woodland glade and think their own thoughts; it is very peaceful. The memorial logs and orbs along the path are a super idea; it gives people somewhere to focus on.” Within the wood in the grounds is a natural pond that provides sanctuary for the locally very rare heathland species, Floating Clubrush (Eleogiton fluitans).
Roddy added: “We understand not everyone has attended a funeral, therefore to some a crematorium may feel a strange or an uncomfortable place. If you would like to visit and have a look around, or ask any questions of the team, then you are more than welcome. I am always pleased to personally answer any questions you may have so please feel free to call me on 023 9222 2648.” You can also find out more at www.havantcrematorium.co.uk